End of Life Care in the Home: Supporting and Sustaining Family Carers
Palliative care services within New Zealand aim to support care for terminally ill people and their family/ whānau, regardless of their disease or place of care. Increasingly consumers prefer that this care and support, including end of life care, is provided in their own home as opposed to hospital or care institutions and current health policies support this trend. The availability of family carers is widely acknowledged as pivotal to home palliation by ensuring physical care and emotional support for the patient is available outside that provided by formal (paid) carers and palliative care professionals entering the home. Literature searched found that family carers feel under prepared for their role and desire more support and information from health care professionals. How to achieve this is less clear. When considered against the backdrop of an ageing population and geographically dispersed families, it is forecast there will be increased incidence of dying patients with complex palliative care needs and a reduced carer population that may make the preference for home death increasingly problematic. Using purposive sampling techniques, six bereaved family carers, who were enrolled with a hospice palliative care service (HPCS) and had supported end of life care of a relative at home, were recruited. Utilising qualitative descriptive methodology this study sought to identify the key conditions under which their caring contribution was sustained. Data collection was by way of semi-structured interviews that were audiotaped and transcribed. Following coding, transcripts underwent qualitative content analysis and revealed three key themes and associated subthemes relating to: perception and acquisition of caring role; sustaining the role; now and looking back. Conclusions drawn from this research offer increased understanding of the enabling factors family carers experienced as supporting them in their role and achieving a home death for their relative.